The one where Susan saves her job with Google Sheets

By Devon Hennig

Boardroom Confidential is a collection of wild-but-true stories from the careers of me and my friends.

SOME VPs ARE MERCURIAL. Their moods change more than the price of Bitcoin.

One such VP was Max, head of manufacturing for a warehouse in Indiana.

Max was a tall guy with a short temper. He knew how to negotiate factory space, fix multimillion-dollar machinery, and process 10 tons of recycling in less than an hour, but he didn’t know how to work a Macbook to save his life. Anytime he tried to do the simplest task, he went beet-red, shouting at the laptop as if he was Ben Mallah cursing out a construction crew.

So, Max and Macs didn’t mix. That’s what Susan was for.

Susan was the office admin.

She handled orders and billing and time sheets and anything else Max threw at her. She put up with a lot of Max’s shit, but, to be honest, she wasn’t a spectacular employee herself. She messed up POs, forgot to unlock the facility for cleaning staff, and miscalculated payroll all the time. On more than one occasion when people would complain about Susan, Max would say, “That’s it. She’s done.” But since she was the only person who knew how to manage the company’s digital records, she never got fired.

Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back.

One day, Max found out that Susan had forgotten to tell him about a prescheduled floor inspection, and now there were inspectors at their door.

As he fumbled his way through the inspection — looking like an unprepared  fool — he vowed that as soon as the inspection was done, so was Susan. This was unforgivable. She had made a total ass out of him.

At the end of the tour, the inspectors weren’t impressed. One of them said to Max, “We’ll grab the readout and be on our way.”

“Readout?” Max swallowed.

“The sheet with the meter readout. For the quarter.”

Shit. Max looked around for Susan and couldn’t see her. Where is she?

He went to his desk and found his Macbook under a pile of junk, looking at it as though the keys were sanskrit. He had no idea how to log in, let alone access the spreadsheet with the report he needed.

“Max?” a voice said behind him.

Max turned. “Susan? Where have you been? I need— .”

“The readout?” She handed him a physical printout of what he was looking for. “Hot off the press.”

Max handed the report to the inspectors and they left, satisfied. He clapped Susan on the back and bought her lunch that day.

“You’ll have to show me how to print those damn readoffs,” he said between bites of empanada.

“Why?” Susan said. “We both know Google Sheets is the only reason I’m still around.”

They both laughed. And not only did Susan keep her job, but six months later the company was acquired and all the employees received stock that eventually amounted to 7 figures. Susan cashed out at age 48 with $4M and retired early. Max made a lot more, but if Susan hadn’t saved his butt that day with the inspectors, who knows where he would have ended up.

Moral of the story: surround yourself with people who complement your weaknesses — and never be too quick to fire.

Devon Hennig

Devon Hennig is a writer, marketer, and ex-game-show host. He quit his job as a software executive to make a go of it on his own. Follow along as he tries not to go broke.

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